Why cannot God speak in the language of poetry, metaphor, and myth?

The title above is a question or rather an affirmation from Marcus Borg, American New Testament scholar, theologian and author. He asked this question in a challenge to conservative, literalist Christians who, as we know, know no linguistic subtlety. A word, phrase or paragraph mean exactly what the English says. I’m betting that many had trouble in high school English classes on the topic of poetry and creative writing.

Borg asks, what would it mean to take a phrase like “the right hand of God” literally? Does God have hands? And a right side and a left side? Literal interpretation of the Bible as a whole is literally impossible. As I am a leftie, such stuff bothers me perhaps more than my right handed friends.

The Garden of Eden story has long puzzled me: it seems so adolescent. A couple gets punished for trying to learn stuff! Not just punished but thrown to the wolves! WTF? That obedience lesson was terribly harsh and quite inappropriate.

Yet, not to worry because it was all myth. Not even original myth, either. It was lifted from the Babylonian creation story six centuries earlier. As I wrote in an earlier post, anthropologists suspect that this story is the effort of Iron Age people to explain the change from the hunter-gatherer, subsistence living to an agrarian economy. God has little to do with the change, but the ancients needed to mark this economic shift with a Deity.

How much more intricate and wonderous is the mythology than the literal words.

Then there is Noah…


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